Inarguably the most widely-played sport in the world, soccer is played on almost every continent. A competitive team sport, soccer may be difficult to master, but it is fairly easy to learn. In this article, the most basic rules of the game are explained, the necessary equipment is outlined, and foundational skills and how to practice those skills are described. Keep reading to learn more about how to play the most popular sport in the world.
1. Learn the Basics
Soccer is a competitive team sport in which the objective is to score more goals than the opposing team. The game is played by 11 players on each team, and one of these players from each team must play the goalie position. The other positions filled in by soccer players include four defenders, three midfielders, and three forwards.
A regulation game is divided into two 45-minute halves, lasting for 90 total minutes. The objective of each team is simple: to cross the ball over the opponent’s goal line, thus scoring a point. Each goal in soccer is worth one point, and the team with the most points by the end of the 90-minute game, or any period of extra time, is declared the winner.
2. Understand the Rules
The most difficult and important rule of soccer is that players are not permitted to touch the ball with their hands. This rule applies to every player on the field besides both teams’ goaltenders. However, even goalies are only permitted to touch the ball within the goalie’s box. When a handball violation is called, the opposing team is granted a free kick from whatever place on the field the violation occurred.
Other fouls can occur in soccer, such as tackling violations and offside violations. Depending on the offense, the opposing team will either be awarded a direct or an indirect free kick. A direct free-kick means the opponents are allowed to attempt to kick their free-kick straight into the goal. An indirect free kick means that the kicker may not attempt the goal. Players must keep the ball within the four lines of the field. When the ball strays outside of these lines, either a corner kick, goal kick, or throw-in will be awarded to the opposing team, depending on where the ball went out of bounds.
3. Get Equipment
Fairly limited equipment is required to play soccer; however, it is important to get the correct equipment to avoid injuries during gameplay. The most important protective pieces of equipment are shin guards, a mouthguard, and properly-fitting soccer cleats. Soccer cleats are specially designed to provide ankle support for players running on grass or turf. Shin guards fit over the part of your leg most susceptible to being hit by the ball or other players. Mouthguards, of course, protect your teeth and mouth from injury.
Finally, a regulation soccer ball is a necessary piece of equipment, so you can practice on your own time before games. Researching the best, most protective brands online before making a soccer equipment purchase is always a great practice. Then, head over to your local sporting goods store or online shops to order your equipment.
4. Find a Soccer Field
A regulation soccer field is quite large and similar in size to a football field. Typically, a field is between 100 and 130 yards in length and between 50 and 100 yards in width. Often, regulation soccer fields can be found in a local park. Additionally, there are many indoor venues where soccer can be played for free or for a relatively low entry fee. Urban soccer parks and mini-fields are also rising in popularity in major US cities.
For a beginner looking for a place to practice their skills, the best course of action would be a Google search for the closest fields near you. After visiting a few fields, you’ll gain a feel for where you like to play best. Although a large amount of space is needed to play competitively, soccer can easily be practiced on your own, with a couple of friends in a backyard, or anywhere else you can find or set up a net. One thing to keep in mind when choosing a place to play soccer is the ground surface you are playing on. To learn how the ball moves in a game, it is best to practice on a well-maintained, grassy surface.
In soccer, there are two ways to progress the ball down the field toward the goal. Players can either pass or dribble. Not only is dribbling critical to bringing the ball close to the goal, but it is also important to be able to keep the ball in your team’s possession and not give the opposition a chance to score. Since using your hands is not allowed, soccer players dribble with their feet.
Usually, the middle of the top of the foot and the left and right edges of the foot are used to dribble the soccer ball. Using extremely soft, gentle, but quick touches to the ball is important while dribbling. This allows you to keep the ball as close to you as possible and avoid it being intercepted by your opponents. A great way for a beginning dribbler to practice the skill is to set up an obstacle course of cones or other obstructions to dribble around. Try weaving between the cones slowly, then working up your speed, and even setting timers with progressively lower times to beat!
Similar to dribbling, soft but firm touches of the foot are key to a successful soccer pass. Make sure your body is squared up to the ball and facing in the direction of the teammate you are passing to. This skill allows teams to move the ball downfield toward the goal much more quickly than dribbling does.
Practice makes perfect with any sport, and soccer is no different. One of the best passing drills is called the grid passing drill. In this drill, two players stand varying distances away from one another. Using cones, make a small square around each of the players. Players pass back and forth, making sure that the ball lands within the square. When practicing this drill, it is important to move the squares around so that you can practice passing from a variety of different angles and distances.
Shooting is debatably the most important skill for a soccer player to have, as it is the difference between winning and losing games. When shooting, face toward the goal and plant your non-kicking foot pointed toward the direction you want the ball to go. Typically, you want to hit the ball with the top of your foot, using the laces of your cleat. A great way to practice shooting is to set up multiple balls in different places along the field. Run up to each ball one by one and try to score a shot on goal. You can try this drill by yourself first, then ask a friend to goaltend while you shoot.
8. Tackling (Defense)
Tackling is the most important defensive skill in the game of soccer. Tackling is defined as any move a player makes to steal the ball. Mastering this skill is key to being able to win the ball back from the opposing team and prevent them from scoring. The key to a successful tackle is timing. If you tackle too early or too aggressively, the opposing player will most likely pass you with the ball. Similarly, if you allow the player too much time with the ball, they may be able to maneuver the ball around you before you have the chance to steal. Real-game situations are the best way to practice defensive tackling, so get out on the field and practice with friends!
9. Practice With Others
While practicing soccer on your own can help you develop the basic skills of soccer, eventually, you’ll need to find some friends to play with to get to the next level of your game. A great way to meet practice teammates is by visiting your local soccer fields and making friends with others playing there. Joining a soccer club or team can also be a great way to find friends interested in soccer. Some soccer skills, like defensive tackling and passing, are impossible to practice on your own. Once you have the fundamentals of dribbling and shooting down, ask your new friends to practice these multiplayer skills with you before game time.
10. Play a Game
Once you’ve mastered all the basic skills and practiced with friends, it’s time to put all your talent to use and find a real game to play in. Look into local recreational leagues that may already have teams you can join. If you have enough interested friends, you may even be able to assemble your team of players and join an existing league. Don’t let the stress of a real game make you forget about the skills you’ve learned, though. Enter the game ready to put your knowledge to use in fast-paced game situations.